Jim Yong Kim urged to revisit infrastructure strategy

A hydropower plant in Ghana. Photo by: Arne Hoel / World Bank

The World Bank should adopt a bottom-up approach to infrastructure projects, according to a new report by environment watchdog group International Rivers.

The nonprofit hopes the incoming president of the bank, Jim Yong Kim, will act on the recommendation.

Infrastructure has recently risen back to the top of global development agenda. Pushed by G-20 leaders, the World Bank outlined in November last year a new strategy that prioritizes “transformational,” large-scale infrastructure and encourages involvement of the private sector in financing projects.

Come their next meeting in Mexico, G-20 leaders will take up green infrastructure anew. The gathering will happen right before Rio+20.

In the report, titled “Infrastructure for Whom?,” International Rivers slams the World Bank’s approach and notes complex multipurpose schemes like large dams are backed by questionable economics, come with a history of big cost overruns, have been constructed without public involvement, and have made societies more vulnerable to corruption.

The group’s sentiment is nothing new. In the 1990s, there was so much criticism against megaprojects, which many believe have led the bank to scale down its infrastructure lending.

“Access to clean water and electricity is essential for a healthy, productive life,” the watchdog group says. “Yet the top-down infrastructure projects of the past have left more than one billion poor people in the dark.”

Its suggestion: Increase financial and policy support for decentralized renewable energy solutions such as community-based microhydropower projects, which the group claims to be more affordable than electricity from the central grid, help create jobs in several sectors, and enhance capacity and climate resilience in poor countries.

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About the author

  • Eliza Villarino

    Eliza Villarino currently manages one of today’s leading publications on humanitarian aid, global health and international development, the weekly GDB. At Devex, she has helped grow a global newsroom, with talented journalists from major development hubs such as Washington, D.C, London and Brussels. She regularly writes about innovations in global development.